2022 predictions for the world of work

The way we work has changed dramatically over the past year. Integration into our lives and our dependence on technology have also increased. We have entered the “all TV” era and virtual or hybrid work is now the new normal. As we settle into new routines ahead of the New Year, it’s important to take stock of our direction in 2022.

In this sense, below I offer five predictions as a professor of business management and Fast business contributor, for the upcoming working year. To get the most out of these predictions, organizations can each adapt to their own business needs.

The definition of flexibility is changing

Employees want all kinds of things from their jobs. They want fair compensation, opportunities for growth and development, a positive organizational culture, and more. Over the past year, however, there has been a major shift in what employees want the most. While fair pay is consistently at the top, the new priority for employees is actually flexibility.

We saw flexibility as flexible working hours; the option to have half-day Fridays or to rearrange the hours during the work week. It is obsolete. Today, when employees say they want flexibility, what they really mean is that they want to be able to do their jobs anytime, anywhere. It is no longer a question of reorganizing the hours, but of completely rejecting the idea of ​​hours. The employees are basically saying, tell me the deliverable and the due date, and I will.

My prediction is that organizations that focus on flexibility will have a much easier time attracting and retaining talent. Some organizations balk at the idea of ​​such extreme flexibility. It is their strategic choice. This may be because their product or service requires a face-to-face workplace. It may also be because it produces a specific culture or pattern of interaction for employees. It’s important to note, however, that deliberately ignoring flexibility will reduce the size of the talent pool.

Customization of hybrid work options

During the pandemic, organizations were forced to send their employees home so they could work remotely. The employees, for the most part, appreciated this virtual option. Well-being, work-life balance and productivity all seemed to improve. Organizations were suspicious because they feared employees would miss the face-to-face interaction and collaboration. In turn, a compromise ensued: the hybrid working arrangement.

The hybrid is the new normal. However, there are as many variations of hybrid work as there are organizations. At one end of the spectrum, organizations can let employees work from home or the office whenever they want. On the other end of the spectrum, organizations require employees to be present on specific days, sometimes up to four days a week.

Many organizations started in the middle. The vast majority tend to ask specific teams, units or departments to come to the office two or three days a week. The challenge here is that this team-based approach is over-simplified and, in some ways, counterproductive. For example, recent research suggests that virtual working leads to more, not less, team collaboration. The real challenge is that we are missing out on collaboration between teams, which leads to knowledge transfer and organizational innovation.

Each employee has a specific home work situation and job function. Given these variables at the individual level, team leaders are already starting to make personalized arrangements for these employees. Although organizations have defined the mandate throughout the organization (an approach based on fairness), managers are unwilling to lose key employees and, in turn, are ready to make idiosyncratic deals .

My hunch is that organizational-level mandates will eventually turn into cultural suggestions, but the manager will ultimately have the final say. The manager, not the CEO, knows the needs of his team. Managers have a much clearer estimate of whether or not workplace mandates will work. Let the managers make the call.

Face-to-face replacements

Virtual communication will never replace face to face communication. In research on organizational behavior, he describes how the richness of communication differs by medium. Asynchronous virtual communication works great for sharing information. Synchronous virtual communication works best for dissecting and clarifying information. However, face-to-face communication is ideal when the situation is complex. Interactions aren’t limited by a 30-minute calendar invite, and participants can pick up subtle, emotionally charged cues or body language. Additionally, face-to-face communication is better for building trust, a key part of any work environment.

Given these differences, my prediction is that organizations will start to invest heavily in two things. The first is HR technology. Many organizations are already using some form of survey to find job engagement and satisfaction. Now more than ever, organizations are also starting to invest in technology that allows virtual or hybrid employees to get to know each other better.

Without random hookups and impromptu conversations, it’s difficult for employees to get to know each other personally and get an update on what they’re doing and what they’re working on. For example, companies like BeRemote are infusing their technology into existing systems like Microsoft teams to make sure employees can get to know each other better. Likewise, companies like Cloverleaf offer daily coaching advice to team members to make sure they work better together.

The second is high quality off-site. There is an art to formulating the perfect offsite, and organizations, especially virtual organizations and hybrid organizations, will need to understand it. Offsite should include opportunities for leaders to commit to a strategy or establish a unifying vision, for teams to grapple with their most difficult questions, as well as a healthy dose of team building and of relationships.

Behavioral telemedicine is here to stay

Perhaps one of the few positive aspects of the pandemic has been the increase in transparent and non-judgmental conversations around mental health. As the world has gone through changes and challenges, many people have suffered from symptoms related to mental health. With medical facilities shut down, providers began to invest heavily in telemedicine. Organizations realized that the only way to ensure that their employees had access to their suppliers was to start offering telemedicine options, which in many cases include behavioral telemedicine.

Ahead of the pandemic, employees would have to spend a staggering amount of time and resources finding mental health care providers that would accept driving distance insurance. Now employees can receive behavioral telemedicine support within minutes. Investments in technology have enabled employees to have conversations with qualified professionals immediately and at a fair price. It was a welcome change. Plus, the one I’m planning will stick around for the long haul.

Diversity and inclusion will become more difficult

Under hybrid work arrangements, preliminary evidence suggests that women are more likely than men to opt for days at home. Unfortunately, in heterosexual two-earner couples, women still tend to take on more household responsibilities than men. Thus, women could opt for virtual work rather than office work in order to be able to more easily manage non-work responsibilities at home.

That is problematic. Hybrid organizations need to be aware of what is known as the “office advantage”. Employees who are physically present are more likely to build relationships with other coworkers. They are also more likely to be considered more productive because they are physically present. Such a physical presence, in turn, can give these employees an edge when it comes to social capital and leadership opportunities. In this sense, my prediction is that diversity and inclusion staff have another variable to assess, which will be the workplace.

Scott Dust, PhD, is Professor of Management at the Farmer School of Business at the University of Miami and Director of Research at Clover, a technological platform facilitating coaching for all.

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